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Entrepreneurship is more than having your own business

Entrepreneurship education develops and enhances life skills in young people that can help them succeed in the future.

Branch County 4-H members with entrepreneurial projects
Branch County 4-H members with their 2018 entrepreneurial projects available for sale in a local store. Photo provided by Branch County 4-H.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Enspire Conference provided by the Young Entrepreneur Institute in Ohio and it left me inspired to continue teaching entrepreneurship to young people. Many of the qualities and attributes that make someone successful at owning their own business are many of the same life skills that help us all be successful in life.

What skills does it take to be a successful business owner? The list is lengthy, but just a few include: perseverance, patience, competitive spirit, communication/social skills, problem-solving, risk-taking, critical thinking, goal-setting, record-keeping, self-motivation and decision-making. These attributes, or life skills, are the same life skills that 4-H fosters everyday with young people that experience our 4-H Youth Development programming.

As an example in the past, Branch County 4-H had seven youth members participate in their Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP). Total, it provided 10 hours of entrepreneurial education. This included selecting a project, writing a business plan, creating a personal pitch and a sales pitch, packaging and advertising. Four of the Youth Entrepreneurship Program participants had their projects available for sale in a local store for a month. Those members were responsible for the display, keeping inventory in the display and monitoring their sales. 4-H members also exhibited their projects at the Branch County Fair with a display board and business plan and presented their businesses to a judge.

In 2018, Michigan State University Extension provided 86 entrepreneurship workshops and programs. Participants included 1,874 youth and another 330 adults. Ninety-three youth who participated in long-term and intensive entrepreneurship programs were evaluated. As a result of their participation:

  • 95% agreed or strongly agreed they understood what it meant to be an entrepreneur.
  • 95% agreed or strongly agreed they knew how to effectively communicate with customers.
  • 95% agreed or strongly agreed they understood how to use marketing strategies.
  • 96% agreed or strongly agreed they were aware of how they could use their skills to become an entrepreneur.
  • 85% planned to pursue further education about business/entrepreneurship.
  • 75% planned to start their own business.

When asked the question, “How will what you have learned in this program help you in the future?” participants from various youth entrepreneurship programs indicated:

  • “It will help me in meeting new people and knowing how to communicate with different people.”
  • “It has given me the opportunity to think outside the box.”
  • “It will help me manage money and help me set goals.”
  • “I learned how to market my animal better.”
  • “It will help me run my own farm.”
  • “This program helped me better understand what I would like to do in my future.”

Teaching entrepreneurship and fostering the entrepreneurial spirit in young people can help develop skills for future success. Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development helps to prepare young people for successful futures. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, email us at 4-HCareerPrep@anr.msu.edu.

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